by Shawn Brasseaux
What picture forms in your mind when you think of angels? Light-skinned women with blond hair, or perhaps chubby children with rosy cheeks? Do angels have haloes and wings? Do they sit on clouds and strum harps in heaven? Do people become angels when they die? Religious tradition portrays angels in such a ridiculous, unscriptural way. It is further sad because very few people actually bother to see what the Bible really says about angels. In this Bible study, we hope to clear up the abounding confusion regarding angels.
As always, what a denomination says or what any person says is not important. God’s Word, the King James Bible, is the final authority in all spiritual matters. What does God’s Word say about angels? The King James Bible makes over 300 references to angels. While we cannot exhaustively cover each and every reference, we can give you an accurate and Biblical description of angels. We have divided this study into two general sections: what angels are like and what angels do. First, we will look at the nature of the angels. Then, we will look at the activities and roles of angels in the past, in the present-day, and in the future.
THE NATURE OF ANGELS
- From where did angels come? God created the angels, or the “the host of heaven” as they are called in Nehemiah 9:6. In fact, the angels were present during parts of the creation week (Job 38:6,7)—they watched in amazement as God created! Like us, angels feel emotions such as joy and awe (cf. Luke 15:7,10).
- Angels are spirit creatures who serve God (Hebrews 1:14).
- It is important to note that angels and humans are separate creatures. People NEVER become angels, but angels do assume human form (more about this later). The clear distinction between angels and humans is that humans are made “in the image of God” and angels are not (Genesis 1:26,27).
- In the Bible, angels are also called “the sons of God” and “the morning stars” (Job 38:6,7), and “the stars of heaven” (Revelation 12:4).
- The most powerful angelic creature was Lucifer, and because of pride, he rebelled against God and fell from heaven (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:13-19; Luke 10:18). We now know Lucifer by the name “Satan,” or the “Devil.” The name “Satan” means “adversary; enemy;” Satan is God’s chief adversary because he “deceiveth the whole world” (Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20:2).
- Hebrews 12:22 says that the members of the angelic host are “innumerable.” There are far too many angels for us to count and that number is too difficult for us to comprehend.
- In Psalm 78:23-25, manna is called “angels’ food” and “the corn of heaven.” Evidently, the food of the angels is the same bread that God provided Israel to eat in the wilderness. From this, we gather that angels eat corn/grain (perhaps bread?).
- When Satan rebelled against God, a number of angelic creatures followed him, and they became the fallen angels. These fallen angels are called devils or “Satan’s angels.” The worst of the fallen angels are imprisoned in chains of darkness (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6), awaiting the day when they will be thrown into the lake of fire with unbelievers to suffer torments for all eternity (Matthew 25:41).
- Angels are invisible spirit beings (Numbers 22:22-31). When they appeared to man, they did so in the form of physical, tangible men, not women (Revelation 21:17; one angel appeared as a young man in Christ’s tomb in Mark 16:5). Two angels and the Lord—all three disguised as physical men—ate with Abraham in Genesis 18:1-8, and at first, Abraham was unaware of who they actually were.
- Angels are strong and powerful (Psalm 103:20), wise (2 Samuel 14:17,20), and God’s angels are holy (“set apart,” Matthew 25:31). The Bible says that one angel slew 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in a single night (2 Kings 19:35; Isaiah 37:36)!
- Angelic creatures do not understand the salvation that God has provided to humans (1 Peter 1:10-12). They are far more intelligent than we are, but they are not omnipotent (all-knowing). They, like us, learn from experience (Mark 13:32). In eternity, we believers will teach God’s Word to the angels (see 1 Corinthians 6:3).
- Angels are organized in ranks or orders. Michael is the only archangel mentioned in the Bible. He is one of the chief angels, if not the leader of the God’s angelic host (Jude 9). Michael is called Israel’s “great prince” in Daniel 12:1. Gabriel is the name of another angel (Daniel 9:21-27; Luke 1:11,19,26). Save Michael and Gabriel, the Bible does not give the names of any angels.
- Isaiah had a vision of seraphim flying around, which are a type of angelic creatures (Isaiah 6:2, 6). God placed cherubim at the east of the Garden of Eden to prevent Adam and Eve from re-entering Eden after the fall of mankind (Genesis 3:24). The Bible also speaks of God dwelling between cherubim (2 Samuel 6:2; 2 Kings 19:15).
- Zechariah 6:8-9 says there are some devilish female (women) creatures with wings called “wickedness.” These are not angelic beings, but Satan’s counterfeit creatures of God’s angels. Female angels, in God’s words, “wickedness!”
- There is some debate over the identity of “the angel of the LORD.” Is this God the Son in a theophany, or is this simply an angelic being? While some use Genesis 48:16 to contend that the “angel of the LORD” is God the Son, I understand “the angel of the LORD” as simply an angel that the LORD uses (not the LORD Himself). You can also refer to Genesis 16:7-16, Genesis 22:11, 2 Kings 19:35, and Acts 12:7,8 for other references to “the angel of the LORD.”
THE ROLE OF ANGELS
ANGELS IN TIME PAST
- In Israel’s program, under the direction and supervision of God, angels protected believers (Psalm 34:7; cf. Psalm 91:11,12; Matthew 4:5-6; Luke 4:9-11), rescued believers from prison (Acts 5:18-20; Acts 12:7,8), ministered to believers (Hebrews 1:13,14), provided for believers (2 Kings 1:5-8), and guided believers (Genesis 24:7,40).
- The ministry of angels toward unbelievers was just the opposite. God sent angels to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:13). According to Judges 5:23, God sent angels to curse the unbelievers.
- Angels also appeared to the Jewish patriarchs such as Abraham (Genesis 18:2-15) and Moses (Exodus 3:2; Acts 7:38), and even to the prophet Daniel (6:22). On one particular occasion, angels appeared to the entire nation Israel (Judges 2:1-4).
- In 1 Kings 19:1-8, an angel fed Elijah cakes and gave him water to drink when he fled from wicked queen Jezebel.
- The angel Gabriel appeared to the prophet Daniel to give him “skill and understanding” (Daniel 9:21,22).
- An angel appeared to Zacharias to announce the conception of his son, John the Baptist (Luke 1:11-22).
- Angels appeared to Mary and Joseph to herald Christ’s conception, and angels appeared to the shepherds when Christ was born (Matthew 1:20-24; Luke 1:26-38; Luke 2:9-12).
- Angels ministered to the Lord Jesus Christ in the wilderness after the devil tempted Him (Matthew 4:11; Mark 1:13). In Luke 22:43, an angel “strengthened” the Lord Jesus Christ.
- The Lord Jesus Christ claimed that He could ask His heavenly Father to send over 72,000 angels to rescue Him (Matthew 26:53)!
- In time past, after a believer’s death, angels carried him or her to “paradise / Abraham’s bosom” (the Old Testament version of heaven). See Luke 16:22.
- The Bible says that angels proclaimed Christ’s resurrection (Matthew 28:5-7; Mark 16:5-8; Luke 24:4-7).
- Angels appeared to the eleven apostles on the Mount of Olives, and these same two angels accompanied Christ as He ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9-11). Notice these angels appeared as men in white apparel.
- An angel rescued Israel’s apostles from prison (Acts 5:18-20) and an angel delivered the Apostle Peter from prison in Acts 12:7.
- According to Acts 27:23,24, an angel appeared to comfort the Apostle Paul before shipwreck.
ANGELS IN THE BUT NOW (DISPENSATION OF GRACE)
- In this the Dispensation of the Grace of God, separate from Israel’s prophetic program, angels are not making public appearances today (Colossians 2:18). Contrary to religious tradition, there have not been any angelic appearances to mankind in almost 2,000 years. Do not seek angelic appearances either!
- If you witness a supposed “angelic appearance” today—or any other similar miraculous experience—you need to be aware of Galatians 1:8. An angelic appearance would serve no purpose today, as God’s message to us is in His written Word, the King James Bible; an “angel” would only appear to you today to deceive you. Now that we have the complete and preserved Word of God (the King James Bible in English), God does not send angels to relay messages to us today like in time past (see 1 Corinthians 13:8-13; 2 Timothy 3:15-17). Remember that the devil is working behind these modern so-called “angelic appearances,” for he is the master deceiver (see 2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Satan uses these “doctrines of devils” to distract us away from God’s Word (1 Timothy 4:1,2).
- Like the lost world, the angelic host watched Paul’s lifestyle and ministry, and they watched the other apostles and the other Christians (1 Corinthians 4:9). Although we cannot see angels today, they are watching us and listening to us (see 1 Corinthians 11:10; Ephesians 3:10; 1 Timothy 3:16). Angels exist, but unlike during biblical times, they cannot be seen today.
- By the way, the Apostle Paul never mentions us having guardian angels as members of the Church the Body of Christ. After all, we have the indwelling Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 4:30; 2 Timothy 1:14)!
- Angels are not to be worshipped (Colossians 2:18). We should not have angelic statues, angelic paintings, and the like because this is evil, and this will eventually lead to idolatry (Exodus 20:4,5).
ANGELS IN THE AGES TO COME
- At least one archangel (Michael?) will be present when the Church the Body of Christ is raptured into glory (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
- After the rapture, during the seven-year Tribulation, angels will bring God’s judgment on the lost world (Revelation 7:1-3; also, Revelation chapters 8 and 9, for instance).
- During the seven-year Tribulation, angels will teach God’s Word to His believing Jews (Revelation 2:1,8,12,18; Revelation 3:1,7,14). Angels will also serve some of the believing Jews during the Tribulation (Hebrews 1:14).
- Prior to the Battle of Armageddon, angels will accompany the Lord Jesus Christ at His Second Coming (Matthew 13:41,42,49,50). See also Matthew 24:30,31, which speak of God using angels to gather His Jewish believers who survived the Tribulation period. Those “armies which were in heaven” dressed “in fine linen, white and clean” mentioned in Revelation 19:14 are angels that accompany Christ at His Second Coming.
- According to 1 Corinthians 6:3, Paul asks, “Know ye not that we shall judge angels?” Are believers in eternity going to rule with the Lord Jesus Christ over the angels? Yes, this verse says so, and like we said earlier, we will teach the angels God’s Word too!
Angels are spirits that God created to serve Him. Angels are God’s messengers, although some angels have since rebelled against God. The Bible calls these fallen angels the “devil’s angels.”
In time past, angels revealed God’s Word to mankind. Angels are strong and wise, and they can cook and fight military battles. Angels did minister to believers in time past (especially the nation Israel), but angels do not interact with us today and they do not appear to us today because we have God’s completed Word. We do not have guardian angels in this the Dispensation of Grace. Angels are watching us and listening to us, so be careful what you do and say! When angels did appear to people, they appeared in the form of young men (they never appeared as women).
During the future seven-year Tribulation, God will use angels to pour out His judgments on earth, and when the Lord Jesus Christ returns at His Second Coming, angels will gather God’s believers who have survived the Tribulation. The Scriptures teach that we believers will rule over the angels one day.